Samantha's Sales Opportunity: Learning to Define, Price and Market

Aug 28, 2017

Samantha was trying to get herself up for another networking meeting.  

She was part of a networking group called Business Achievers that met every month. Each month, all 35 of them would gather together for a dinner where they'd explain what they did and hope they could get referrals from the group. Samantha dreaded these meetings, but was convinced that she could get business from them, if she said the right words in her elevator speech.

Samantha had owned a boutique shop in her suburban community of Summer Heights and sold it to Hallmark a few years ago, and was convinced that she could use her experience to help other business owners like herself.  She couldn't understand why it was so hard for her to come up with an elevator speech.  After all, she was a seasoned business woman.  How could she advise others, if she couldn't even help herself?

This time would be different.  Samantha decided she would go with an elevator speech that was sure to get a reaction.  Samantha stood up and said, "My name is Samantha.  Did you know that chances are that 80% of you in this room will not succeed at business!  I consult with business owners to ensure they succeed with what they are trying to do.  If you want to be part of the 20% who succeed, I'd love to meet with you in person to see how I can help."

As each person was given an opportunity to give their elevator speech, Samantha was taken by one person in particular.  His name was Russ, and he was new to the group.  He said, "My name is Russ. People call me Coach Russ. I started, grew and sold my company over a 15-year time frame.  During that time, I struggled to keep my family together, I thought about quitting several times, but found ways to not only prosper in my business but to thrive in my personal life.  If you know of business owners who are struggling or if you are a struggling business owner yourself, I can help you create an enjoyable and prosperous business ownership experience."

Samantha did set up a few meetings with some nice ladies who wanted to get to know her a little better.  One was a realtor and the other was a loan officer at a local bank.  She met a man who owns a small auto-mechanic shop who agreed to meet with her.  She also met with Coach Russ and set up a meeting with him to discuss her own predicament as a brand new business consultant.

Samantha met with Russ at his office which was surprisingly close to her office.  She wondered to herself, 'Why am I talking to the competition?' and 'Why would he help me take clients from him?'.  But she was convinced that Russ may have something to teach her and wasn't going to let competitive angst stand in her way.

After sharing some background and getting through the typical small talk that you had to do at a networking meeting, Samantha asked, "I am struggling with sales.  How do you get clients?"

Russ smiled and answered,"I suppose I get clients like everyone else.  I attend networking events on occasion; I advertise on Social Media; and get on the phone and call business owners cold on occasion."

Samantha responded, "Okay.  I do all of those things too, but I'm not getting any clients.  Why do these things work for you, but not for me?"

"Samantha, getting clients is not just about selling or marketing skills.  It's about your service and your promise to prospective clients."

"I tell business owners that I can help them become successful.  Isn't that a promise?"

"It certainly is.  However, most prospective clients want to know HOW you will make them successful; and exactly what it is that you'll do for them.  What service do plan to provide for your clients?"

"I plan to help them, just like you.  Once I get done with a consultation, I will figure out what is wrong with their approach to running their business; and I will then devise a plan to help them become better."

Russ was careful not to chuckle because he knew how serious this was for Samantha, "You seem genuine in your desire to help other business owners.  But most people will want to have a sense of WHAT you will do; and then decide if the service you provide is worth the fee you will charge."

"I get that.  But my initial consultation is FREE.  Why won't they at least get a free consultation to see WHAT I will do?"

"You make a good point.  In my experience, most business owners consider the one-hour they will spend with you a cost, regardless of whether you charge a fee or not.  Their time is extremely valuable, and they don't want to chase something that will not have a defined result."

Samantha was getting frustrated, "But, I saw you in the networking group.  You don't say HOW or WHAT you will do.  All you say is that you will help struggling business owners.  How is that any different than what I say in my elevator speech?"

"That's a great question.  Our elevator speeches are almost identical.  However, in a networking meeting, I'm only trying to connect with people who want to get to know my story or me.  I'm not selling them my product or service."

Samantha didn't know where this came from, but she blurted out, "Okay.  What if I want to hire you to coach me?"

Russ was a little surprised, "I'd be glad to coach you."

Samantha didn't let him off the hook, "Exactly, how will you make me successful as a small business consultant?"

Russ smiled again, "Here is the process I use to coach my clients.  I believe there are three elements that determine where we start coaching.  The first, is the stage of development.  You are clearly starting out, so the stage seems relatively obvious.  The second, is level of understanding you have about eight specific areas of business.  Since you are an experienced business owner, you may have most of these covered.  The third, is your energy-level or attitude toward each aspect of your business.  To start, I will have you complete a Business Wheel and and Energy Leadership Assessment before our first coaching session.  I charge $1,000 per month for weekly sessions, $600 per month for bi-weekly sessions and $400 per month for monthly sessions."

Russ grabbed a tri-fold brochure and slid it over to Samantha, "All of the details on how I help small business owners is contained in this brochure."

On one hand, Samantha was impressed.  Russ seemed to rattle off his offer to help with ease.  She could envision the steps that would be taken to help her and had a written document that said exactly what Russ would do to help her in her new business.  On the other hand, Samantha thought, 'What an idiot!  Doesn't coach Russ know that I'm a competitor?  Why don't I copy his pricing and his brochure and compete against him?'

Samantha responded, "Okay.  I'll hire you for a month to see what you can do for me."

Russ responded, "I never take on a client who doesn't sign up for at least six months.  However, any client of mine can cancel at any time they want, if they feel they are not getting the results they seek."

Samantha thought, 'What a chump!  I'll sign up for six months and cancel when I get enough information to compete with this bozo, "Okay. I'll sign up for bi-weekly coaching for six months."

After Samantha had taken the Energy Leadership Assessment and did the Business Wheel exercise, she determined that SALES was NOT her problem, but it was OPERATIONS.  She couldn't get people to hire her to coach them because she didn't define a specific product or service for them to buy.  Instead, she felt like she could help them through helpful conversations and they would pay her.

Now, she had to determine her PRODUCT.  Coach Russ used the Business Wheel and the Energy Leadership Assessment, and then created an ACTION PLAN.  He then used this ACTION PLAN to help his business owner clients move forward in the area that was holding them back.  While Samantha was convinced this was a great approach to helping business owners, she didn't want to take this path.  It just wasn't a fit for her.

Coach Russ called his first session, "Building a Business Mindset".  In this session, he would focus on the one area that his client needed to work on and create an ACTION PLAN to improve that area.  Samantha chose OPERATIONS.  She was determined to define a product or service that she could use to help her clients.

Russ asked, "What, specifically, helped you succeed at your boutique?"

Samantha answered, "I really didn't understand finance that well.  I would tend to buy inventory that I couldn't sell and was marking things down in order to move them in order to get cash."

"How did you improve your inventory situation?"

"I created a discipline around keeping my inventory levels restricted.  I also worked out better payment and credit agreements with my suppliers."

"If I were a merchant, how would you help me create the same inventory discipline you created for yourself?"

"I suppose I would review your books and see if your inventory was above or below a certain percentage of revenue.  That's what I did for myself."

"What other financial tools did you use to manage your boutique?"

Samantha beamed with pride, "I guess I became a financial geek.  I tracked all of my expenses as a certain percentage of revenue to keep them within certain limits.  I also learned to forecast sales based on different seasons of the year.  I was awesome at knowing exactly what I should be paying for different products so that I could make good margin on my sales."

Russ smiled, "Wow!  It sounds like you are a financial genius when it comes to running a small business."

Samantha felt good, "I suppose I was."

"How do you give this same genius to those merchants who haven't learned how to manage their finances?"

"I suppose I'd review their books to see how well they are managing money."

The coaching session was nearing the end, and as usual, Coach Russ assigned homework to Samantha, "How would you feel about defining a specific service that allows you to use your financial knowledge to help retailers?"

The fog was clearing for Samantha.  She understood that if she could create a specific, step-by-step process, to help small retailers, she will have defined a niche and a product all at the same time.

Samantha responded, "I would feel good about doing this."

"How do you want me to hold you accountable to creating such a service?"

The gears were turning in Samantha's head, "I will do this before our next coaching session."

Coach Russ helped Samantha develop a complete action plan to define, price and then market her idea of improving the finances for small retailers.  After their six months of coaching, Samantha reduced her time with Russ to monthly as she continued to work on other aspects of her new practice.

Within three months of engaging Coach Russ, Samantha left the Business Achievers networking group in favor of the Retail Merchant's networking group.  She was not only making great business contacts in her new group, but was invited to speak a few times on inventory discipline.

Samantha had four high-paying clients within six months. She was considering hiring staff to  complete the proprietary financial analysis of would-be customers.  Samantha smiled when she thought that she would be competing with Coach Russ.  It was almost a weekly occurrence that she would refer business owners to Russ who needed to get their general business act together; and Russ would refer retail clients to Samantha who needed help with inventory control and finances.

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